Today, the United States Supreme Court refused to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former detainees against Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse at Guantánamo.
By refusing to hear the case, the Court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all “persons” did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law. The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that “torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants.”
In WWII, we were shocked and dismayed at reports that Japanese soldiers would fight to the death, resorting to banzai charges when all hope of further resistance was lost. Part of the reasons the relatively few prisoners we did capture gave for this behavior was the loss of face and humiliation of surrender; but another part of it was fear of their treatment at our hands after capture. Some of that fear was certainly due to their knowledge of how our own prisoners were treated in Japanese prisoner of war camps. The Bataan Death March was only one of many violations of the Geneva Conventions visited on our troops who fell into enemy hands. But Japanese prisoners, though hated for their barbaric actions, were given the treatment required by the treaties to which we were signatory. Torture was unthinkable; that was what the barbaric, medieval Japanese did, what the Gestapo did. That was what we were fighting against.
That was then; this is now. Now, if you're going to fight against the United States, you'd better be wearing a uniform. Because if you're not, and we capture you, we can do anything we want to you. You have no rights whatsoever. You're not even a person; you're some indescribable thing like a piece of gum we might find on the bottom of our shoe. We can take you out of your home country and ship you off to anywhere in the world; we can waterboard you, zap your genitals with electricity, make you stand up for 36 hours straight, deprive you of sleep for days on end, cut you off from all outside contact with other human beings, strip you naked and chill your cell to 36 degrees, anything at all, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's all a "foreseeable consequence" of your being detained as a "suspected enemy combatant." You don't even have to be an actual enemy combatant; you just have to be suspected, maybe even denounced for money by your neighbor who never liked you anyway.
This is what the D.C. Circuit ruled was legal behavior (besides, "even if torture and religious abuse were illegal, defendants were immune under the Constitution because they could not have reasonably known that detainees at Guantanamo had any Constitutional rights;" never mind human rights). The Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively agreeing with that ruling. This is America.
I need some stronger happy pills.